FLOWERY BRANCH — Harry Douglas is on the verge of reclaiming his status as a potential breakout receiver for the Atlanta Falcons.
One year after a devastating knee injury ended his 2009 season, Douglas is gaining momentum in his comeback. He had his most work of training camp in Tuesday's practice, and as early as Wednesday he may be cleared for all drills.
"We will continue to ramp him up as the week goes on," coach Mike Smith said after Tuesday's session. "We are anticipating (Wednesday) he will be able to participate in all periods, barring any unforeseen things that arise."
Douglas took a few hits in the practice, another first in his comeback.
"I got a little contact on some of the routes and that's always good to have," Douglas said. "Once again, I trust my knee, I trust my trainers and I trust my coaches and everyone in the program here. They do a great job of taking care of me and I've got to take care of myself also."
Douglas was in position to win the job as the Falcons' No. 3 receiver and top punt return specialist before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in last year's training camp. He suffered the injury after catching a pass from Matt Ryan.
He has another opportunity to win a spot behind Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, the starters in a two-receiver formation.
Brian Finneran, Eric Weems, rookie Kerry Meier and a group of undrafted free agents are competing with Douglas.
Smith said Douglas won't participate in the team's scrimmage on Friday night at nearby North Gwinnett High School. Running back Jerious Norwood (hip) and cornerback Dunta Robinson (hamstring) also will miss the scrimmage.
Smith said Jerry is ahead of two possible starters — defensive tackle Peria Jerry and cornerback Brian Williams — who are also returning from knee injuries.
"It's a lot of hard work, but I knew that as soon as I got hurt," Douglas said. "As soon as I had my surgery, one thing I wanted to do was to dedicate my time and effort into coming back. I didn't want to feel sorry for myself. I didn't want to take days off. I wanted to make sure I did what I had to do to hurry up and get back out here."
Douglas, from Jonesboro, Ga., has been fielding punts, but he said his emphasis is on offense.
"I think first you have to crawl before you can walk," he said. "Be patient, do all the little things right and focus on all the little things of being a receiver and then let the other things come that come."
Douglas, a third-round pick from Louisville in 2008, had 23 catches for 320 yards and a touchdown as a rookie. He showed his big-play potential when he also scored touchdowns on a run and on a punt return.
Following the injury to Douglas, Weems emerged last season as the team's top return specialist. Douglas and Weems are training camp roommates for the second straight year.
"I'm very happy for him to get healthy," Weems said. "He's on schedule. He's taking it slowly, one day at a time. He'll be back soon."
Smith said it's too early to know if Douglas will compete with Weems on returns.
"Harry I think is beginning to get back into it," Smith said. "Whether he's going to be a guy that's going to be in the mix in terms of returning punts and kickoffs this year, I think it's way too early to tell."
NOTES: Rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and third-year offensive tackle Sam Baker were involved in a brief fight during the morning practice in pads. The two were quickly separated. "I don't like to see the altercations on the field," Smith said. "I thought it was a very spirited practice. We've got to stop on the whistle." ... The team practiced in its indoor facility following rain and lightning Tuesday morning. The afternoon special-teams practice was held outside. ... The Falcons will have one practice on Wednesday in a break from their two-a-days schedule.